The Art of Getting By
Or, how I, a seventeen-year old girl, attempted to navigate becoming an adult while my parents got a divorce just before my graduation.
I do not have a monopoly on suffering.
But at seventeen, I've seen my fair share of it.
However, this is no sob story, nor is it my entire story. Instead, this is just another chapter of my life---unfortunately, a rather mournful (but life-lesson ridden) chapter.
It was January, a month known for being cold, both literally and figuratively, in my opinion, when my mom burst into the living room, and turned my entire world upside down. "You're father is in Atlanta when he should be in New York right now," she was telling me, "He's with another woman just thirty-five miles away." Damn, did that pack a punch. She was crying, and I suddenly felt so entirely nauseous. It was earth shattering, and disgusting and terrible, and yet, I felt no trace of surprise.
I sat there, watching her as she sobbed. "He's been doing this to me for years," She mourned, "And I let him. Over and over." The shock was so overpowering. "But I asked you, Mom," I said softly. "I asked you if he would ever cheat when we found that happy meal toy in the car and..."
"I lied," She told me simply as she grabbed a knife and went out to the garage to destroy his car. I stopped her. "Mom, stop. You'll regret it if you do it."
Ironically enough, I had been studying A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen in my AP Literature class, which is a play about a marriage during the Victorian era that isn't as perfect as it might seem. Prior to my mom storming into the living room, I had been staring into space as I listened to Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez, and trying to understand the text for the essay I had to write the next day.
It seemed to be one horrible thing after another once the first truth tumbled out. First, there was that long, terrible absence when my father went back to stay with his mom in New York for a while. Then, there were the fights that lasted all night when he returned, and the tension in the house that made me sick to my stomach upon walking in. Through each fight, I sat in my room, listening to the anger until I fell asleep.
I chose to live with my mom (who was staying with my brother) after a terrible falling out between my dad and I, and I tried to focus as hard as I could on my studies. This last semester of my Senior year was the hardest one I had ever gone through simply because I just felt this need to be strong for everyone else around me even though nobody really asked me to. I was listening to my best friend and helping her through an abusive relationship, and helping my other friend understand why she felt so broken, and caring for my mom by bringing her breakfast and making her little gifts, and scrolling through endless scholarships and online jobs to help pay for college.
Somehow, I managed to graduate with a 3.0. GPA, and A's and B's on my report card. I managed to begin to make a home out of my new surroundings. I tried my hardest not to miss my big room with the big, lovely window and my nice, comfortable bed, and imagine that the cool, pleather coach that I slept in was a bed fit for a queen. I tried not to hate my father when all the money was cut off, and we were left entirely dependent on my brother and my mom's 401k (which didn't have much money in it). I tried not to cry when we had ten minutes to get whatever we could fit into the back of my mom's car out of the house---or when the door was shut behind us in such a cold and dismissive way.
I tried to write poetry but my mind felt broken and I tried to think of things to say but felt as though I had constipation of the tongue. I felt so alone, sitting there in school, surrounded by people. "You're always so cheerful and happy," People would tell me. I tried to imagine that I was a princess, like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, so that I wouldn't forget to always act gracious and kind like a princess when my eyes stung with tears, and my heart burned. It helped at times.
But one night, I cried until I had no more tears left in me, and I prayed for help until I fell asleep, and things began to let up. I was offered a job to walk this woman's dog for $15 a walk. Graduation rolled around. I fell in love with myself again. It wasn't simply because I cried that things began to get better. It was because I allowed myself to feel and to release more. I allowed myself to sit in the bathroom during math, and cry. I allowed myself to wallow and pity myself for just a bit each day until I hardly needed too anymore.
For those who came to this article for a formula on How To Pretend You Are Okay When You Really Aren't or How To Turn Off Your Very Human Emotions, I regret to inform you that there is no equation or recipe or formula for getting through or by things. It's not like a sickness that you can cure.
The Art of Getting By is allowing yourself to feel, and to be soft. Americans, especially, are so used to just getting things done, and having things instantly. Fast food. Fast cars. Instant oatmeal. Instant rice. It's so easy to just find some app to categorize our days minute by minute so that we cannot fit anything else into our schedules. People laugh at those who allow themselves to take "Mental Health Days," and sleep in instead of going to work, or school.
We forget that there is so much courage in being soft, in admitting that everything is not okay, that we are not okay. We forget that not everything can be solved with a quick DIY or those oddly-addicting Buzzfeed quizzes that tell us what type of bagel we are and how it affects our love lives. We forget that sometimes, pitying ourselves and allowing ourselves to wallow for a bit, is the only real medicine for getting through a world that seems ridden with chaos.
In the end, if you are bearing the brunt of some terrible storm right now, weather it's something that would make headlines, like famine, or disease, or if it's something "common" to a lot of people, like a divorce, a mental illness, realizing that you are gay, know that you don't have to be strong all the time. Understand that sometimes, being strong means letting yourself be weak.
And understanding that that is perfectly okay.